The events that unfolded this past weekend in Arizona are truly troubling. A federal judge, a 9-year-old girl, a political aid, and bystanders are dead. Many more injured, including a congresswoman. The gunman, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a crowd of people. He planned it and talked about it on Myspace, YouTube, and other internet sites.
The media quickly jumped on who to blame. Who is responsible? Many were quick to blame talking heads, such as Sarah Palin and her use of ‘gun targets” that targeted political races. Glenn Beck responded had words. Even the Pima County (where the shooting occurred) Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, blamed the country’s explosive rhetoric on Rush Limbaugh:
“The kind of rhetoric that flows from people like Rush Limbaugh, in my judgment he is irresponsible, uses partial information, sometimes wrong information,” told ABC News. “[Limbaugh] attacks people, angers them against government, angers them against elected officials and that kind of behavior in my opinion is not without consequences.”
Media outlets quickly picked up on a few remarks made by national political figures. Somehow, everyone on the ‘left’ is blaming everyone on the ‘right.’ Those on the ‘right’ are crying foul. It’s clear that the media helps hype these remarks by provoking the fire with the stoking of “he said – she said.” Suddenly, people on both sides of the political isle are isolated into two camps on the issue of blame. Television and radio need to sell airtime and get listeners, so the talking heads say outlandish things to continue the hype.
Everyone is asking, “Who is to blame for this shooting?” It’s gun control people. It’s the health care people. It’s the conservatives. It’s the liberals. It’s the tea party. Who is drawing the line and deciding who is speaking for these groups?
The issue of blame is human. We need a reason to make sense of this tragic shooting. We need there to be a rhyme to the reason. We cannot accept that out of insanity this shooting this happened. That does not make sense. We need to blame someone or something greater than just one man to neatly package our grief, anxiety, sadness, and shock. We need to name our pain and it needs to be bigger than a crazy guy with a gun.
In this case, as many cases with lone shooters, it’s craziness. Crazy is to blame. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show helps us understand ‘crazy’:
We live in a complex ecosystem of influences and motivations and I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine… Boy, would it be nice to draw a straight line from this horror to something tangible, because then we could convince ourselves that if we just stopped this, then the horrors will end. You cannot outsmart crazy. You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on.It would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t resemble how we talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.”
We need to start making sense of our world by understanding our world. Sometimes, crazy people do crazy things and the result is murder. That’s horrible, but it is a fact. All the yelling about health care, government debt, or building a mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero is not going to change that in the end a 22-year-old with a gun killed people.
However, we need to stop thinking that free speech means free from consequence. Provoking anger can come from words. Crazy can be provoked, but ultimately we are responsible for our actions. I pray that we can stop the rhetoric games and start seeing people. People who need help. People will be crazy, but we have a responsibility to civility and respect.